I’m still in research phase for the current book, and over the last couple of weeks I have read Home Truths by Sara Maitland, watched Bamako and Timbuktu , both set in Mali, by director Abderrahmane Sissako and stumbled across Saviours, season 13 episode 8 of NCIS where a doctor is kidnapped, in South Sudan.
It is unnerving how once you have written a draft, life starts throwing coincidences at you. I saw a link to Home Truths, I think in something in the Mslexia diary for 2016 which is all about writing the body. The book was mentioned as the main character loses a hand in an accident on a mountain in Zimbabwe. The short description ticked several of my ‘might be interesting’ boxes and I picked up a second hand copy. I didn’t realise how many areas of the book would resonate with my novel in draft. There is a missing person; a return from Africa, changed, mutilated; a return to a family home where things are the same and nothing is the same at all; a return where pain and confrontation leads to healing and moving on. There are differences too, my book doesn’t focus on religion in the way Maitland does, but some similar questions are raised about identity, ability and disability.
I started finding out more about Sara Maitland (see my post on authorial intent … I’m still open minded about whether knowing the author’s biographical details enhances or diminishes your experience of reading their work, whether it confounds and distracts from the book as a work. Nonetheless as a writer I’m curious to see what else a writer has created, where the inspiration might have come from.). Anyway, looking up Sara Maitland lead me to Lancaster University where she is a contributor to the Creative Writing MA. That lead me to the PhD, and put me back into the ‘shall I, shan’t I?’ mindset, where my fingers hover over the keyboard and I consider investing days in filling in a PhD application form, investing years in one single project. Having completed the MA I have more idea of what it might take, and so I hesitate, but I’m working on this book regardless and part of me thinks I may as well take that one extra step.
One of the motivations to suck up my qualms and just apply for a PhD is the fact that I’m going to do a fair chunk of research anyway. Right now I’m aware I haven’t studied post colonial theory, so I’m starting work on that. I’m aware that by writing a white man and woman into Africa, there is a danger that I’m unsure I can avoid. Unavoidable or not, I need to know more about what I’m doing, to write consciously. What I can tap into, what most people can find somewhere in their lives, is the feeling of being other, of being the different one. It’s interesting to watch Sissako‘s work and see the difference in pace and story telling, particularly when compared to Beasts of No Nation, set in West Africa, based on an African author’s book, but fundamentally an American production, or the popular NCIS series where everything is fast paced and wrapped up in less than an hour. I’m not sure how to do this, but it would be good to learn how to write that difference in pace and perspective and that is something I want to consider when I go to Tom Connolly’s Film and Fiction event on how the movies can help you tell your story.
So, that’s where I’m up to. I took time out to read a good supernatural detective story over the weekend, which I’ll write about soon, but now I’m back to Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction (I love this series for kickstarting you into a topic) and more hostage memoirs with Amanda Lindhout’s A House in the Sky.